Allen West could attempt to return to Capitol Hill in 2016 if Marco Rubio runs for president. But West could find running for the U.S. Senate to be a difficult assignment.
West talked to the Tampa Bay Times this week and shot down rumors that he would primary Rubio in 2016. Some conservatives and tea parties have called for West to challenge Rubio after the senators support of immigration reform. West continues to show no interest in taking Rubio on. But, when asked what he would do if Rubio ran for the Republican presidential nomination and not for the Senate, West said he would be very interested in campaigning for an open Senate seat.
Popular with the tea party movement, West has proven to be a strong fundraiser. Despite losing his congressional seat to Patrick Murphy last year, West has remained something of a political player, rallying conservatives in Florida and at the national level. West remains popular with large swaths of the Republican base and should be a player if he enters the Senate primary. West might be out of office but hes not out of politics and he should be able to keep the attention of likely primary voters.
But West certainly has his weaknesses. While it was close, West lost out to Murphy and Republicans have grumbled that he did not focus enough on grassroots campaigning. Wests conservatism and shoot-from-the-hip style endears him to conservatives but wont play as well in a general election, especially with a presidential election taking place in 2016 and Florida, as usual, expected to be a battleground state.
West wont be the only Republican looking to move up the ladder, especially with an open Senate seat in play. George LeMieux could make another Senate bid. While most observers expect them to run for governor, the likes of Jeff Atwater, Adam Putnam and Will Weatherford could focus on Washington instead of Tallahassee. Add into the mix young congressmen like Tom Rooney, Trey Radel and Ron DeSantis and West could be facing a crowded primary.
The Republican leadership wont want West to run, especially in a presidential year. Its hard to imagine Republicans beating the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 -- presumably Hillary Clinton -- with Florida. They will pull out all the stops to ensure the often controversial and blunt West will not be on the ballot in November 2016.
At the very least, the Republican leadership can breathe a sigh of relief that West wont go after Scott next year in the primary. In the interview, West shows no interest of going to Tallahassee, either as a rival or a running mate to Scott.
Wherever he goes, West is not fading off into obscurity like so many one-term congressmen. West will continue to remain a factor for Republicans in Florida and could pop up as a Senate candidate in 2016 or 2018.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.